Hula Hoops, Life Lessons, and a Family Legacy

By on May 31, 2016
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I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. John 17:6

Being a great father is like shaving. No matter how good you shaved today, you have to do it again tomorrow. Reed Markham

 

Editor’s Note: This is a slightly edited version of the editor’s letter of June 2009. My thoughts are that it bears repeating. There comes a point in a child’s life, I think, when he (she) needs the strength, consistency, and mix of tender yet uncompromising standards from a father who is “there,” engaged, cheering, listening, and giving wise counsel. Nothing can ever compensate for its lack or add to its value. Moms are important, too, but they are just not dads. Trust me—it’s a God thing!

MT-and-her-fatherI am a child of the 1950s, the era of Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver. Like Jim Anderson and Ward Cleaver, Dubb Hemphill came home at five o’clock every afternoon and sat down in his “easy chair” with the evening newspaper. The routine barely changed in all the years he and my mother were married. The thud of his shoe leather on the front step, the squeak of the front doorknob turning (nobody locked their doors in that era), and the swish and pop of the rubber band sliding off the rolled afternoon newspaper—I can hear it all even now. The sweet smell of his cigar filled the air immediately, and for all the health hazards we know today, we did not know them then. The familiarity of that daily routine was comforting because I knew my Daddy was home, and all was as it should be in my world. I knew, too, from as far back as my child’s mind can recall that I was well loved.

Every now and then I could talk Daddy into delaying the reading of the newspaper if there was something really important I wanted to discuss with him. In second grade, I talked him into taking me to the Morgan and Lindsay dime store to buy a to-die-for, red hula-hoop—and it wasn’t my birthday or anything. I strategically planned to convince Daddy of my dire need before my mother knew about it, as I was certain Mama would nix it in the name of not spoiling the child. To my surprise, my mother, having read a lot about the hula-hoop craze, decided to try mine. She spent the next few days in bed resting on a heating pad for her sprained back! C’est la vie!

I have no problem understanding why God chose to introduce himself to us as “Father” when I connect my own “father” memories to the concept of what a father is and what he does for his children. There is no inheritance so meaningful or enduring as the love and real life lessons a wise father gives. And the evidence is overwhelming, even in the most secular of circles, that it is almost impossible to compensate for the missing ingredient in a child’s life when there is no dad around to love and affirm. It’s not about money or stuff; it’s about being there. It’s about listening. It’s about setting the example, and it’s about being a cheerleader more often than a critic. There are many great moms who defy the odds, but every child yearns for the dad who is really there.

As we have worked on this issue, I have been reminded once again of how fathers leave their “stamp” on their children, who in turn leave the same “stamp” on their children. It’s as Southern as the question, “Who auh yower peepul, dahlin?” All jokes aside, the generational hand-me-down traits are everywhere in Old Testament history as well in the present day.

Coach Ben Howland is known for pulling out his phone to show you pictures of his family— especially his grandchildren. You will love his story. But there are so many more fathers and grandfathers here who have definitely gone the second mile to “pass the torch.”

I see the reality of the family heritage almost every month as I interview some of the most wonderful people on the planet, but it bears repeating and emphasizing in this month when we celebrate fathers. The thought that our influence is here long after we are gone is a fact of life. I often ask people who their hero is, who most influenced their lives, etc. More often than not, the answer comes back, “my father,” or “my grandfather.”

Happy Father’s Day to all of you incredible men of character and faith who are heroes in the eyes of your children. May your influence continue through the generations to come!